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French league demands elections to replace convicted Laporte

The French league (LNR) on Thursday called on the French Rugby Federation (FFR) to hold elections, after president Bernard Laporte was found guilty of corruption.

Laporte, 58, was convicted by a French court of showing favouritism in awarding a shirt sponsorship contract for the national side to Mohed Altrad, the billionaire owner of Top 14 champions Montpellier.

He was also banned from holding any rugby post for two years, but this is suspended pending an appeal which Laporte’s lawyer said was imminent.

Laporte, however, later stepped down from his role as vice-chairman of the sport’s global governing body, World Rugby, pending a review by the body’s ethics officer.

France is hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup which kicks off next September.

French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said the sentence was an “obstacle for Bernard Laporte to be able, as it stands, to continue his mission under the right conditions” as federation president.

The LNR, which runs the top two divisions of French club rugby, echoed that sentiment.

“Faced with this unprecedented situation that weakens the institution, and after consultation with the presidents of Top 14 and Pro D2, the LNR board considers that it is appropriate to bring peace within French rugby through the organisation by the FFR of new elections, as requested by the Minister of Sports,” said a statement. 

“This approach will allow the governance designated at the end of these elections to move forward serenely towards the major events that lie ahead for French rugby,” it added.

The court found that Laporte, who has been at the head of the FFR since 2016,  ensured a series of marketing decisions favourable to Altrad — who was given an 18-month suspended sentence and 50,000 euro fine — in exchange for a 180,000 euro ($191,000) image licensing contract that was never actually carried out.

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